U.S. Ad Spending Fell 12.3% in ’09

Domestic ad spending dropped 12.3 percent in 2009 to $125.3 billion vs. the previous year, according to data released by WPP Group research firm Kantar Media. That finding was generally in line with Nielsen’s recent estimate that spending for the year fell 9 percent to $117 billion.

Despite the overall dip, Kantar suggested that the fourth quarter might have been a turning point, with spending down just 6 percent and “nearly all media improving upon their January-September performance.”

Local magazines took the biggest hit percentage-wise for the year, dropping nearly 28 points, followed by b-to-b magazines, which were down 26 percent.

All but two of the 24 media categories followed by Kantar were down for the year. The exceptions: the Internet, up slightly more than 7 percent, and freestanding inserts, which rose 3 percent. Sixteen of the categories suffered double-digit percentage drops.

Network TV was down 9.5 percent on the year, but only 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter, when a strong scatter market helped sales. Cable was down 7 percent for the full year and 4 percent in Q4.

Local TV was down almost 24 percent in 2009, by far the worst hit TV sector. Spanish-language TV sank 9 percent, and syndication slid 5 percent.

Radio was down 20 percent, and outdoor was off 13 percent.

Spending by the top 10 advertisers varied widely by individual marketer, but was relatively stable, dropping just 1 percent on a combined basis to $16.6 billion.

Top-ranked Procter & Gamble was down nearly 16 percent to $2.7 billion, while Verizon Communications fell 7 percent to $2.2 billion. Rounding out the top five by spending: General Motors rose 1 percent to $2.2 billion; AT&T dipped 4 percent to $1.9 billion; and Pfizer rose 33 percent to $1.4 billion.

While GM was up slightly, overall auto was down sharply, by 23 percent to $11 billion, per Kantar. Auto spending is the biggest overall category ranked by Kantar.

The second-ranked telecommunications sector was up nearly 2 percent to $8.6 billion. Financial services was down 18 percent to $7.8 billion.